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  • 2021TiganePhD

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Practising theory and theorising practice: Towards a greater understanding of reflective practices within management and creative MA degree programmes in England

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Ilham Tigane
Publication date2021
Number of pages304
Awarding Institution
Award date25/05/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


During the last 30 years, reflection has become a major construct, deeply
entrenched in the academic discourses of professionalism, emancipation and life-long learning. With the spread of market-based policies framed by narratives of employability, innovation and enterprise in contemporary UK universities, assessed reflective practices, which require students to engage in iterative meta-processes of self-evaluation and self-exploration typically via writing to adopt new habits of mind and heart, have equally become ubiquitous. This thesis investigates the use of mandated reflective practices across a range of management and creative MA degree programmes within a UK university in North West of England, including E-Business and Innovation, HR and Consulting, Applied Theatre and Dramatic Arts, Dance and Embodied Practice, Design and Culture and Creative Writing. It reports on how university teachers and their students conceptualise reflection within their respective disciplines and how they experience its practices, that is, the learning opportunities and challenges these practices represent for them. My study takes an ethnographic participatory case study approach using semi-structured interviews, document analysis, recorded classroom interactions as well as classroom observations conducted within selected MA modules over the period between the years 2018 and 2019.
The findings indicate that students were involved in rich and complex online and
offline, individual and collective reflective activities that played a pivotal role in
supporting their individual learning and in training them for their future
professions and the workplace. With the support of their tutors, students were
encouraged to engage with reflection as a dynamic ongoing process that is not
purely intellectual or idealistic but social and relevant to professional practice. A
key finding that my study highlights is that apart from some observed similarities
between the reflective activities in use, the shifting meanings and functions of
reflection within the examined programmes demonstrate that reflective practice
is embedded in the structure of disciplines and is highly contingent on the situated culture and nature of the knowledge underpinning each context. Students’ accounts confirmed the value of reflection for engaging critically and consciously with their own learning as well as for articulating their reflective analytical thinking that is conducive to their professional development and enhanced employability. However, students’ ability to do so in assessed reflective writing tasks was impacted by their prior experience and language proficiency and was further dependent on factors such as tutors’ own choices and the quality of the feedback received. Besides ambiguity around the nature of reflection and how to assess it effectively, results indicate the normative effect of assessed reflection portrayed by aspects such as students’ instrumentalism inhibiting them from engaging with reflective practice as an exploratory experimental process and related to it teacher and student participants’ professional allegiance to traditional conventional practices, which may indirectly limit their critical reflections.
This study emphasises the need to consider reflective practice as subject-specific, that is, to understand reflective practice, how it can best be integrated in modules and what it can do for students within the context of specific disciplines and learning situations. Data shows that without explicit teaching of reflection and a clear understanding of its nature and purpose, assessment within MA degree programmes that relies on judgements of students’ reflective writings is
experienced as challenging and problematic. Results further stress that for deep
authentic reflective experiences, it is important to design critical reflective tasks
that are applicable to the workplace, that consider students’ different backgrounds and accommodate their different reflective learning styles and work preferences.